Popular east-end brewery pushed out of Toronto due to high price of real estate
Published Thursday, November 30, 2023 9:18AM EST
If you’ve ever found yourself in Toronto’s Parkview Hills neighbourhood, just north of Woodbine Avenue and O’Connor Drive, you may have stumbled across – or into – Muddy York Brewing Co.
The humble-looking brewery has become a mainstay in that pocket of the city’s east end for the better part of a decade, serving up a wide variety of craft beer to patrons thirsty for a pint and racking up impressive customer reviews along the way.
Business had become so successful, in fact, that married owners, Susan Michalek and Jeff Manol, planned to expand north of the city, hoping to break into the otherwise untapped market of Stouffville.
But, after their Toronto landlord recently announced his intention to sell the building, the pair realized their expansion plans had been cut short and were now forced to relocate altogether after being unable to find an affordable alternative elsewhere.
“We definitely didn't want to leave. And we definitely wanted to stay and extend our lease there,” Michalek told CTV News Toronto in an interview.
“It’s just a shame because we've spent many years really working on our current location and doing our best to attract people, and it's just become a really lovely community hub, and we're going really miss a lot of our customers and we're going to miss the vibes there.”
Michalek said she wasn’t surprised by the landlord’s plan to sell and that he even asked the couple if they wanted to buy it. However, Michalek explained, the listed price is just out of their “financial reach.”
“The building is for sale for far more than we would be willing to pay. For what you’re getting, that space is very overpriced,” she said.
According to Realtor.ca, the property at 22 Cranfield Road is priced at $2,745,000.
“What has become of Toronto, and how can we keep interesting and vibrant businesses, and small business owners, going if it’s such a hostile environment for them?” Michalek asked.
NOT AN ISOLATED INCIDENT: CFIB ONTARIO
In an interview with CTV News Toronto, Julie Kwiecinski, the director of provincial affairs for Ontario at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), said Muddy York’s situation may not be unique.
“I wouldn't put this as an isolated incident. I think the problem is bigger than just this one business,” Kwiecinski said, adding that the CFIB is hearing from many businesses struggling with rising costs in Toronto, across the province, and beyond.
According to Kwiecinski, the last time the CFIB surveyed its members, 52 per cent said they were operating at or less than normal revenue levels and 61 per cent said they still carry COVID-19-related debt, averaging over $134,000.
“We measure small business confidence levels every month across the country, and in Ontario, they are the lowest. Right in the basement for short and long-term confidence,” Kwiecinski said.
Operating a craft brewery in Ontario can be especially difficult, according to Kwiecinski, who pointed to a high tax rate on beer and a nine cent per beer can tax as some of the stressors, and called on the province to do more.
“The province can be doing things to lower taxes for all businesses so things like this don't happen and businesses have more money in their pocket,” she said.
Meanwhile, Michalek said she and Manol are still excited by the prospects ahead and don’t want the news of their impending departure to be “a complete bummer.”
“We're still really excited by our brand… we're going to keep our heads down, work on this new space, and we'll keep going.”
Muddy York will continue to occupy the space until the end of February, Michalek said. The date of the Stouffville location’s opening has yet to be determined.